Chef with two Michelin stars and ambassador of the next edition of Goût de France, Christophe Hay puts ecology at the heart of his cooking. In his restaurant "La Maison d'à Côté" in the Loire Valley, he offers the best of regional flavours with a rare determination.
He is a happy man, an accomplished chef who works for responsible gastronomy, the transmission of French know-how and the preservation of the traditions and terroirs of his region, Centre-Val de Loire. Born into a family of farmers, Christophe Hay was marked at a very young age by the financial difficulties and the paradox of quotas for which he saw his grandparents throw away litres of milk so hard won. "I promised myself that I would come back to my region and do something for the small farmers", he confides with emotion.
Ancestral techniques and local treasures
Today at the head of three restaurants, the man has fulfilled his childhood dream by working with local producers, allowing them to preserve ancestral techniques and continue to produce an exceptional offer. "I am proud to contribute to the preservation of local treasures such as the Touraine géline, an endangered species bred by Adèle Chandavoine and which is only served in my restaurant, or the Solognot lamb, a local breed that almost disappeared last century*", he continues.
The chef is also working to rehabilitate freshwater fish, which suffer from a bad image. "The Loire River was classified in 2000, the water is pure, there is sand and pebbles so the fish do not have the muddy or earthy taste of pond fish. I work with a fisherman who supplies my restaurants with all the fish we serve.
As for the garden, Christophe Hay pushes the concept of local consumption very far as he manages 3,000 m² of permaculture with his gardener Alain Gaillard. "We grow all the plants and aromatic herbs we use, but also the majority of the vegetables we serve. The herb garden is an integral part of the experience, customers go for a walk in the garden after the meal and enjoy the smells.
In connection with the conservatory of ancient seeds in the Centre region, he also works to preserve and promote ancient vegetables. "The cuisine we offer is very plant-based, in fact we think first of the vegetables and seeds and then of the proteins that will accompany them, it's a very different philosophy: favouring nature and taste above all.
_Developing excellence locally __
Terroir is not everything. Christophe Hay also looks for excellence elsewhere when necessary, but he strives to develop it locally. "I travel a lot, I regularly bring back new species, new seeds. For example, I brought back ten types of potatoes and different varieties of maize from Peru, which we will grow in the garden.
When the chef likes it, he doesn't hesitate to go further! For example, by creating a wagyu beef farm managed by Yvan Derfoir. He thus benefits from this exceptional quality of meat and its unique marbled taste that melts in the mouth, all without polluting by making it travel thousands of kilometres.
Realize a recipe that is hundreds of years old.
He cherishes his region and enjoys finding old recipes in the cookbooks of the Château de Chambord, such as Carpe à la Chambord, created in the 18th century for the Maréchal de Saxe. "I like the idea of perpetuating a tradition by making a recipe that is several hundred years old, while bringing it up to date. It is an extraordinary experience for me to keep it alive by adapting it.
Living from his passion while preserving tradition and the environment and helping small producers: this is the great challenge taken up by this exceptional chef!